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Duke Has Been Working Hard On Defense This Week

Down to brass tacks

Miami v Duke
DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 21: Vernon Carey Jr. #1 of the Duke Blue Devils goes after a loose ball against teammates Dejan Vasiljevic #1 and Sam Waardenburg #21 of the Miami (Fl) Hurricanes at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 21, 2020 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Back to basics.

Duke had an open date this weekend, a week between last Tuesday’s game against Miami and this Tuesday’s game against Pittsburgh.

But that doesn’t mean Duke didn’t keep working, especially on defense.

Mike Krzyzewski told the media today that Duke spent the week “working on offensive execution and re-doing our defense again because you get into game-planning defense and you get away with some of your fundamentals.”

Yes, fundamentals.

Matthew Hurt elaborated.

“We took a couple of light days and the last few days we’ve been locked in, offense, defense, what they [Pittsburgh] run. We did lots of fundamentals, lots of defensive drills, rotations, the kind of things we did in preseason.”

Duke has made no secret of the fact that they need to play great defense to win. Hurt is a freshman and he says he’s figured out that playing good defense is the key that unlocks his entire game.

“Playing aggressive, starting with my defense, starting with my talk. I feel like once I talk and play better defense, it translates to my offense.”

The key to playing good defense? Staying in front of his man. About as basic as it gets.

After playing only 17 and 15 minutes respectively in games against Wake Forest and Clemson, Hurt has totaled 38 points in two subsequent games and played enough defense to stay on the court for 32 minutes against Louisville and 25 against Miami.

Hurt says he’s concentrating on gaining and keeping the confidence of his coaches and if he does that, everything else will fall in place.

Tre Jones also talked to the media. No one has ever had to convince Jones of the importance of defense. But he also acknowledged that there had been some slippage, slippage that he thinks was erased in the Miami blow-out.

“It definitely helps just being able to see that we can be back to playing like that, with that hunger, with that energy, enthusiasm but also knowing that we can’t come out being lackadaisical, being like we were a few weeks ago when we did drop those couple of games. We just have to be real with ourselves and know that it all depends on us and how we come out and play.”

Jones agrees that playing solid D at the beginning of the game leads to a lot of other good things.

“When we come out defending, getting stops, getting out in transition, getting easy baskets, I definitely think that jump starts us for the entire game. Continue to build on the defensive end, continue to move and do things on the offensive end, get everyone involved, pound it in to Vern [Carey] early and often and play off of him.”

The extra practice time?

“Getting back to playing our normal defense . . . just getting back to fundamentals.”

Jones elaborated that good defense isn’t just getting steals.

“Sometimes it’s steals but also you can be forcing teams into bad shots, forcing them out of their offense, shooting late in the shot clock, shooting with guys they don’t want to be shooting, having those guys take more shots. It can be different every night.”

Krzyzewski said “we got healthier” last week and added that Wendell Moore is “getting close” to returning.

Jones said the brief break “probably helped, getting some rest. I definitely think we’re fresher. We rarely get this much time off this time of the year.”

The key to beating Jeff Capel’s Panthers?

Simple, says Jones. “Just being a tougher team.”

“Time to get back on the horse again and get riding,” Krzyzewski adds.

Saddle up at 9 P.M.